Arkansas High School Had Two Valedictorians Because The Actual Valedictorian Was Black

An Arkansas high school appointed two valedictorians in their Class of 2011, because the student with the highest GPA was black. According to a lawsuit by 18-year-old Kymberly Wimberly (yes, her real name), she was told earlier this year she would be valedictorian of McGehee Secondary School in Pine Bluff, AR, thanks to her nearly-straight A grades, Honors and AP classes. But Wimberly’s mother is an employee at McGehee Secondary School and overheard talk in the copy room that school personnel were concerned that having a black valedictorian would cause “a big mess.” According to Court House News Service, the high school was “predominantly white and 46 percent African-American,” and the implication is that some white families would resent having the black student’s success. So, on graduation day, both Wimberly and a white student, who had the number two GPA at the school, were both honored as valedictorians. The number three-ranking student, also white, then became the salutatorian. When Wimberly’s mother tried to protest the principal’s decision at a school board meeting, she was told she had filled out the wrong forms and was not permitted to speak.

Seriously, people?Wimberly is also a teen mom, which likely had something to do with the school administrators’ s**tty treatment of her. America likes nothing more than to punish its teen moms, rather than address the causes of its teen pregnancy rate in the first place. Alas, becoming valedictorian is neither a morality contest nor a virginity contest. It’s a grades contest. And guess who won the grades contest? The teen mom. The black teen mom. The black teen mom who even missed three weeks of school during her junior year because she was off delivering her kid. Yeah, she won! Not letting her have her moment of glory for her accomplishments just because everyone knows she had premarital sex is simply unfair.

Was it mostly racism motiviating the McGehee Secondary School administrators? Or was it mostly slut-shaming? Does it matter? Either way, what a sickening decision by this school board. Wimberly is seeking an injunction to have her declared the sole valedictorian of McGehee and $75,000 in punitive damages for constitutional violations. I’ll be watching this lawsuit closely to see what happens.

[Court House News Service]
[The Root]
[NY Daily News]

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